Peter’s Auction Pick of the Day: Wendell Castle Chair
Midway through putting together our February 25, 2018 Modern Art & Design Auction, we were saddened to learn of the passing of pioneering American furniture artist Wendell Castle (1932 – 2018). No sooner had we celebrated the news that a stunning, recent piece by Castle would appear in our upcoming auction, we found ourselves mourning the loss of this envelope-pushing designer and craftsman, who was often dubbed the founding father of the Art Furniture Movement.
Thus it is with equal parts heavy heart and deep honor that we feature Castle’s singular Abilene rocking chair (2008) in our forthcoming auction, alongside the work of other innovative designers, including George Nakashima, Charles and Ray Eames, Hans Wegner, and Alvin Lustig.
Although created near the end of his career, Abilene is an exceptional example of Castle’s signature work, with its lyrically undulating lines, sculptural, organic silhouette, and over-the-top, biomorphic form, each of which contribute to the overall whimsical, but functional, aspects of this exceptional piece.
True to form, this spectacular piece resists precise classification. It may neither be comfortably called a piece of furniture, nor a sculpture. Abilene is at once classic and modern, paying homage to the traditional craftsmanship that influenced Castle’s forms, while utilizing modern materials and the language of industrial design.
Over the course of some six decades Castle completely upended traditional distinctions separating furniture design, sculpture, and fine art and Abilene is a testament to his fluid interpretation and commingling of each of these fields. Although he will be sorely missed, Castle’s contributions to the evolution of design — both conceptually and in practice — will doubtless continue to be celebrated and remain highly influential for decades to come.
Abilene rocking chair
Signed and dated with edition to underside
30.5″ x 29″ x 52″ (77 x 74 x 132 cm)
Provenance: Barry Friedman, Ltd., New York, New York; Private Collection, Los Angeles, California
Estimate: $80,000 – $120,000
February 25, 2018 Modern Art & Design Auction